Front

Rarely have I seen such a sky. It both crawled with grey smoky fingers and flowed like an eel in syrup as it brought the very welcome rain from over the horizon.
It has changed, cooler now at night even if it’s warm in the day.

I wonder what furniture I’ll burn first this winter?

Raspberry

I have a love of raspberries, but it’s an appreciation not entirely based upon taste, it’s political too.

Looking back into the not too distant past, strawberries were the fruit of the rich, grown as a crop and sold as a delicacy, it was a rare treat or the unknown for regular folk.

Raspberries are different, the grow wherever they can get a grip and they barely noticed the industrial revolution, the just saw new territories to expand into such as around factory walls, railway embankments and at maybe their most famous gig, all along canal towpaths.

This widespread city accessibility made it the fruit of working folks with buckets of berries being picked by red stained hands being taken home to be boiled for jam. I know because I used to do it.

As times changed rasps socialist stance was lost, fruits are seen as more or less equal now, grown for supermarkets in plastic tents without seasons and the ones still living free are seen as weeds.

Go on, be a rebel.

From Scotland with Love, live

I’ve spoken of or referenced the film From Scotland with Love many times and it remains one of the finest representations of my country and my bond to it that I’ve ever experienced. The beautiful old films used and the wonderful story telling and editing are only the half of it though, the music holds the the film together, it lifts and lowers it through the range of emotions depicted throughout, but listened to all by itself it still walks straight into my heart and soul. It really is a remarkable piece of work and it remains one of my favourite albums.

When we realised we’d missed King Creosote playing the music at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall a few years ago, how this happened I still don’t know as I’m on every mailing list for every gig on this island, we were heartbroken, it felt like we’d missed a last chance.
Then when a performance of the soundtrack at Glasgow’s wonderfully restored Victorian bandstand was announced the joy and relief could not be contained. Covid cancellations stretched our optimism by months and then years, but last Thursday we were finally sat under those clear summer skies we won’t soon forget waiting to hear those oh so familiar songs.

It was after 9 before they band came on, Kenny Anderson with guitar and headphones centre stage, watching the rest and guiding them through the most affecting hour and a bit of music I’ve ever seen.
The film played on big screens either side of the stage, the images becoming sharper as the the light faded completely. The songs synced with the familiar scenes but the this slightly stripped down version of the music felt even more personal, Kenny’s voice is maybe a little older now and it felt like tonight he was the perfect blend of story teller and singer.

Time flashed past with every single moment a precious gem.

The film’s director Virginia Heath came on for the final bow which was lovely and the sold out amphitheater gave the performers a standing ovation from the last note, through the credits and until the stage was empty.

Every face I saw was mix of tears and smiles. The most emotional show I’d ever seen was in December 1997 when the original Black Sabbath took the stage in Birmingham and this show was right there with that.
It was just a wonderful night, sitting hand in hand or hugging, laughing or crying together because of people making music and pictures. Imagine that.

Seaside B Side

It’s only August but I can see the evening creeping towards the day, just a wee bit.

So it was into that gloaming we went with a callout to investigate in Rhu and an ice cream shot to visit just down the road in Helensburgh. I took the old camera in case there was a sunset.

There was a sunset.

The birds leave you alone of you don’t have chips. We’ll now have to experiment with what accompanies your chips to see what effect it has on the birds. Does curry sauce repel or attract, does a pickle confuse them, does a sausage intimidate them, does a chicken supper send them into grief stricken rage?

These two were saying this…
“I’m telling you it’s on fire!”
Nah, there’s no smoke…
“Look, look below”
Why would I, them down there don’t have chips.

Linda caught a wee golden moment with me and Holly too. Might be an all-time favourite photie.

The moon was getting up by the time we got back, a super moon indeed. A nice wee colourful trip.

My ice cream was a Scottish tablet and banana tub with a flake btw. Awesome.

Tony and Ozzy

I wasn’t watching it, wasn’t even near a telly when Mother phoned me “BBC1, BBC1, Black Sabbath, oh you need to see it…”

I got the livestream on my phone and there they were right enough, the two of them sounding good and Ozzy looking surprisingly well.

I’m 53 and they’re still my heroes. I smiled so wide and cried so easily. I never though I’d see this again.

✌️

 

 

But does it really see me?

I was walking back from my folks, for I must walk every day, and I saw the moon rising over the hills, big and pink as it just cleared the horizon. I hadn’t far to go to get to a camera but I knew well that my windows look almost due west and I’d be lucky to see the moon.

Still, I upped the pace as the moon shimmied upwards behind ribbons of pink and orange cloud. It was just stunning and it felt so wintry too, or maybe that was just wishful thinking.

Up the stairs I sprang, and leaned out the windae, I could just see it. Low res and shaky, in the hills I would have had a tripod and a timer but what the hell, this’ll do for memories.


The fun continued a few hours later as did the lack of ability with a camera.

Talking of which, that’s not a doubler below, it’s a different camera. I’ll forget pretty quickly which one took which, I wonder if this is the way to finally give the new one a shot. Hmm.

The Greenock Cut

The Greenock Cut is a 14km–ish trail that follows an aqueduct that was built to serve the thirsty machinery and workers of industrial revolution era Greenock. The circular route takes in the whole of the aqueduct and skirts its feeder lochs with only the briefest of road crossings to pull you away from what feels like a wonderfully remote walk despite never being too far from or high above the urban blanket laid along the Clyde coast.
As well as the hills and coastal scenery, the whole route is an engineering marvel with less than 200 metres ascent recorded from our starting point, so lots to enjoy.
We’d been talking about doing this for ages, and now we’ve been.

The closest we’ve been is going “Oh look, there’s the visitor centre up that road…” when we’re coming back the coast road and now when we were going for real the visitor centre was the planned starting point, but as we got into Greenock a mix of local knowledge and a desire to burn as little fuel as possible sent us up the hill to Overtoun instead. There was proper parking next to some houses, handy and hopefully safe*.

*Spoiler alert, it was indeed fine.

You’re straight onto the track and round the first corner you get the views. Jeezo, why has it taken so long to get here? This is magic.
The track averages out at 160m elevation but the views are so extensive it feels so much higher. We stood and picked out some favourite places, the distinctive tops of the Arrochar Alps being easy to spot and were feeling very close.

The walking is easy and full of wee places to explore, ducts and overspills, workmen’s huts with long cold fireplaces, gates and bridges built to access the central hills which have been made an island of sorts by the aqueduct.
The heather is in full bloom in shades of pink, purple and white, yellow flowers still shine and frantic insects buzz around all of them, scooping up the last of the summer harvest.
The distance passes easily as the weather shifts from grey and windy to warm and bright with every turn as the track flows sharply left and right as it clings to its designated contour line.

We walked anticlockwise, just because. It turns out this was the right way as anyone else we saw on foot or saddle was going the other way. We liked the views this way too, walking out to sea towards Arran and Cowal.

We were starving and hid from the stronger wind on one of the stone bridges to have lunch, well dinner I suppose, because it was late when we left.

Lots of ships to spot, cargo coming and going, a ferry over there, a few yachts and the familiar silhouette of the PS Waverley lolled past as we munched away. The fastest vessel on the Clyde which rockets past our window twice a day and it looked like it was standing still.

Btw, I’ll be talking about that Haglöfs L.I.M Mimic Hood I’m wearing in a wee bit.

As you curve away from Inverkip there’s a little stone building almost buried in greenery, not unlike many along the trail, but this one has some overgrown steps down one side which obviously just had to be explored. I mean why have a red button if you’re not allowed to press it?

Walking onto the slightly shoogly gantry you can see below, a heavy gate protects what we found out later is a restored version of an aqueduct overflow management mechanism.
It’s genius in its simplicity. If the water level in the aqueduct rises to a certain point water will flow down the overflow pipe and into the large bucket which will fill and drop down, opening the cast iron sluice gate which is counterweighted by the second bucket to stop it opening too quickly. The water runs out of the sluice, the aqueduct level drops and the bucket drains through the holes drilled in it, resetting the mechanism to its normal state.
Brilliant. Who needs electricity.

Linda, its a mechanical sluice gate, not a bench… Lots to see at the Cornalees Bridge vistor centre, probably, it was all shut as we were so late in the day. We will go back though, the wee cafe look nice and here’s where you get to find out the history and technical stuff.

The aqueduct stops here as this is where the reservoirs that feed it are, so past the unexpectedly remote feeling Loch Thom is the day’s only real ascent across a pass of around 250m.
Before we tackled this unexpected technical section we sat by the loch and finished our flask and had cake.

This cake was from the wee shop in Duntocher and came from McGhees and in a box too. I’ll probably get into this stuff properly at some point, but a wee health scare earlier in the year has seen me change a lot of what I do and eat and I’ve shed a load of weight through doing well, what I should have been doing all along.
But, I’m not becoming a fitness and food fascist, the cake on that day was one of the finest of joys. But I earn my cakes properly now.

There are minor roads hidden in the hills as well as tracks and there are plenty signposts to keep you right. I’ve crisscrossed Scotland my whole life and this area is probably where I know the least and I can actually see it from my window.
Since me and Linda got together we’ve been setting that right, hardly a week goes by without is setting foot on something somewhere and so much of that has been close to home. There’s so much around us other than the Kilpatricks, it’s all adding more joy and more possibility.

The last run down to Overtoun brings the views straight to the north. It fills my heart so it does.

It was getting late and the skies were darkening but flashes of pale blue could still be seen and the yellowing sun shone beams through the broken cloud to make even the intrusive infrastructure of civilization look soft and maybe even pretty.

We could see the buildings at Overtoun, we were nearly there. But we were still having fun, still had energy, there was still daylight, but there was the car.
We’d been out for hours, walking and just sitting. The time had just evaporated, the best sign of how well you have spent your day.

As we reluctantly skipped down the last gravelly stretch to the edge of town, a familiar sound reached our ears, a dog barking and an incoherent ned shouting at it. The little group sat on the knoll as the sunset geared up to the west, hoods up, their carry–oot in a poly bag ready to blur the last rays of the sun before the western mist could do it for them. Urban poetry in motion.

What a magic day. What a winter trail this would be, what a great bike ride. We’ll be back, but first…

 

 

 

Two steps back

Those two steps have made me very happy. Since spending too much money on the new camera I have just been leaving it at home and taking my LX5 out to play.

It’s low res, low fi, low tech, worn, dented and takes the photies I like. I’m downloading what I see when I’m there and the lack of detail matches my own busy mind.

So now when I need a 7 second exposure to catch both harbour lights and the moon in the same shot I just go that setting, no fannying about.

This makes me happy.

Walking before I can run, metaphorically

I haven’t been out this much in years. I’ve been walking or biking almost every day for weeks and I can see and feel that it’s doing me good.
From early starts for Glen Coe to finding new paths near home with Linda it’s been a joy.

I really hope I can sustain it, I want so much to be as physically ready for winter as I can be.

1496 photies on the memory card. Better look at that too.

Industrial Metal

A wee while back I had cause to walk home from the edge of Glasgow after leaving the motor in the garage. It was a lovely day and I had the best lightweight footwear on for putting in the miles: purple Converse.

I was down by the Clyde anyway so I skirted the docks and then in time passed the new Clydebank College which has been built on a part of the ground that was once John Brown’s shipyard, the place where they built the QE2, HMS Hood, Britannia and more.
What was a place of mass employment, innovation, skill, industry, a supplier of the means to shape the world and the #1 target for German bombers is now a flat expanse of ground–up rubble. That rubble though has blossomed and the whole place is a meadow with a riot of flowers in purple, yellow and white. It’s quite beautiful.

The Titan Crane, now over 100 years old, still stands as a monument, a memorial, a tombstone to the activity that gave the town its life and purpose.
I’ve seen Clydebank sink in my life like so many other industrial Scottish towns, I hope, like Paisley seems to have done, it finds energy and enthusiasm to try again.
Whatever location and inhabitants make the headlines, there are good people everywhere. It’s just that they always seem to have the quietest voices.

Further along is another odd remainder. They could wipe away every trace of a mile wide shipyard but this 1920’s German built hydraulic press was just too much for the hungry scrap men apparently.

It’s cast iron, and it’s an incredibly complex casting too. The skill that went into making this is quite stunning when you know how they do it, and even at that I still think there’s more than a touch of magic in it. Sand, molten iron and clever hands.

I hope they leave it here. It’s a reminder and it’s a warning, where we were, where the hell are we going.

I’m not stupid, I’m not looking at this slice of history through rose tinted welding goggles. I know enough about the realities of life back then and I worked with many who served their time in the shipyards but I do mourn the loss of the knowledge and ability that lived and worked here and prosperity that could have been had for the area if, well I could go into a profit and politics spiral here, but the bottom line is humans, we just ruin it for ourselves just being us don’t we.

Ah, but here was something wonderful about seeing a ship launch.

I walked on through broken fences to where the dock has been filled in. The transatlantic cable laying ship ran from here, the road is even Cable Depot Road and at it’s junction to the main road used to stand the Boilermakers Social Club. Generations to come will wonder about these strange mystical names.

I had to detour around the Golden Jubilee hospital as their fence is tall and unbroken which was a bit of a pain, but this took me past the 1904 Dalmuir sewage works with it’s lovely old brickwork and surprising absence of nasty smells which were an all too familiar visitor to local noses not so long ago.
The old Caledonian Railway bed is accessible here with the occasional wooden sleeper or other jagged remnant of infrastructure to remind you of what once was.

I clambered over concrete blocks into the old oil depot at Old Kilpatrick to take an easier path back out to the modern world with plans to pick up the canal or the riverside trail for the last few K’s home. Still surrounded by industrial history on every foot step though.
I know this sounds stupid, but when I’m doing this stuff I often have an equation in my head that I can’t solve to my own satisfaction. Back when all of today’s route was full of living industry, thousands of people worked in these places, the towns were all smaller and the population was hundreds of thousands less, so where the hell is everyone hiding in 2022? Are we just all sitting shoulder to shoulder in offices or what?

I know, the population increase is probably retired folk living longer and the actual working population might be smaller, I dunno, maybe I’m too lazy to research.
Actually no, not lazy, it’s a rabbit hole of fascination I don’t want to stick my head down and get my ears jammed for countless hours.

Anyway. That first photie is when I took Jimmy to show him the hydraulic press after my walk, I have seamlessly blended it into this incoherent account.

Also, by the time I got to the Scout Hall in Old Kilpatrick, Linda’s offer over the phone of a run home was welcomed enthusiastically. The Converse were great the miles that I’d done so far, but I think my feet might have started taking issue as the heat ramped up as I marched along.

It was a magic walk, a proper wee exploration of places I haven’t been in ages, even years in some cases and also some corners I’d never seen at all.
Given the amount of trespassing involved in it though, we’ll have to talk about specifics over a cuppa at camp.

Canned

Finished off recording the new single.

I look at myself there and my first reaction is that I’m old enough to know better, you old grey haired and bespectacled man.

Happily I’m actually young enough not to care.

It really is true, you don’t stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing.

Excited for this one.

A walk in sunset

I miss the bluebells. They were everywhere this year and it was glorious while it lasted. I’ve never been keen on summer, it gets in the way of stuff I want to do, like big days in the hills or breathing and whatnot. But I am enjoying the green this year. Still, I could happily have had the bluebells for longer.

I do miss the darker nights, as much as I like being out and about after the sun goes down, the light nights disturb my sleep. In saying that, it’s grey and pissing down as I write this so maybe we’re done for the year and we can… Oh wait, it’s not even July yet. The horror continues.

The crags are busy now, but not as busy as last summer. Now that the pandemic is “over” folk aren’t as born again outdoorsy as they thought and have gravitated back to beer gardens and airports.

Good.

 

A walk in silence

If you’re an outdoor person and you’re on social media you likely have a lot of outdoor friends on there too. This is brilliant for comparing notes, seeking answers to questions, reliving memories and finding inspiration.
However, of late I’ve found the barrage of stunning images, joyful tales and beyond has overloaded me and things that should have brought a mist to my eyes have been a swipe past onto the next thing to swipe last. Too much of a good thing maybe?

It’s seeped into my own joy of sharing stuff despite being out and about all the time and enjoying some magic days. It’s always been like this for me though, just more so this time, the ebb and flow of enthusiasm and indeed the nature of that enthusiasm and how it manifests itself changes constantly.
I think the new camera has somehow been a part of that too, I really don’t like it at all and happy snapping has always been a part of my days out and about, I hate fiddling with the bloody thing to take a photie, it’s intrusive.

Planning, scrapping plans and then making last minute half arsed attempts at having fun due to the frankly horrific review sample supply situation (thank you Tory Bastards, Brexit Bastards, Covid Bastards and Bastard Putin) has had a big part in it too.

That’s okay though, the love of being out there is for always, maybe I just don’t bring it flowers and chocolates all the time. It has meant not posting memories for my older self… wait, I think I might actually be becoming my older self now, how long has the place been alive now? Aw, man.
So I’m going to rewind and hit a few spots that make me smile when I find them.

This being one, a lovely early summer sunset with Linda and supper. It was cold and breezy at 1000ft, but the view was warm and we were together.

Aye, this makes me smile.